16 June 2020   Leave a comment

The tension between India and China in the disputed Galwan Valley region has escalated from rock-throwing to (perhaps–it is not clear at this point) an exchange of fire. The India government is reporting that 20 of its soldiers were killed on Tuesday night. The Indian media claims that there were 43 Chinese casualties, but that claim cannot be independently verified. Given the inhospitable conditions in the Valley and the tight control that both sides exercise there, it is unlikely that there will be any independent press coverage of what is actually going on. The two states have not agreed on an actual border in the Valley but this is the first time shots have been exchanged in the Valley for 45 years. The nub of the probelm is control over Pangong Tso, a lake that has a number of land “fingers” that intrude into the water–the dispute is which of these “fingers” demarcates Indian or Chinese territory. The two states did fight a war in Ladakh in 1962 and the Indians suffered a humiliating defeat.

The recent clashes are due to increased Indian building along the line of control. The Chinese have enjoyed superior military infrastructure in the area and the Indians are trying to match Chinese capabilities by building roads and airfields. The two states are negotiating to resolve their differences and I suspect that neither side wants to see the fighting escalate. Both states are dealing with significant COVID-19 issues and can scarcely want to divert attention from that immediate problem. But both sides are led by governments that have stoked nationalist feelings within their populations, and those passions might be difficult to control.

Posted June 16, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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